(Frankfort, KY) Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson applauded the decision of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to clarify its policy on assisting veterans’ voter registration activities. The Department will welcome state and local election officials and non-partisan groups to its hospitals and outpatient clinics to assist VA officials in registering voters at VA facilities. This follows an effort by Secretary Grayson and other Secretaries of State to have the Veterans Administration clarify their recent directive that prevented many organizations from conducting voter registration drives in VA facilities.
“We are pleased to see that the Veteran’s Administration has clarified its rules so that our veterans will have easier access to voter registration activities,” stated Secretary Grayson. “These veterans have defended our right to vote through their service to the country, and we must do all that we can to make sure that they can exercise that very right.”
A bipartisan coalition of 20 Secretaries of State representing millions of voters nationwide sent a letter dated July 16, 2008 to the VA urging them to clarify VHA Directive 2008-025. The Secretaries representing Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, Vermont, Montana, Connecticut, Idaho, Rhode Island, North Carolina, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Maine, Kansas, Oregon, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, Washington State, and the District of Columbia, noted in the letter that the directive blocked access to voter registration officials to conduct registration drives in VA facilities.
Nationally, it is estimated that more than 100,000 military veterans live in federal VA facilities. The Secretaries were worried that these individuals may not have access to voter registration information.
The policy requires that information about the right of VA patients to register and vote, and other patients’ rights, be posted in every VA hospital, and that all VA patients be provided a copy of these rights when they are admitted to a VA facility.
Every hospital is now also required to publish a written policy on voter assistance, allowing patients to leave the hospital to register and vote, subject to the opinions of their health care providers. Patients unable to leave the facility must be assisted to register and to vote by absentee ballot.
In their written policies, VA hospitals are required to establish the criteria they will use to evaluate requests from outside agencies to register voters, and to determine where, when, and how such registration activities will be conducted. They will also develop procedures to coordinate offers of assistance from state and local governments and from non-partisan organizations, and how to work with VA’s Regional Counsel offices to determine whether or not groups offering registration help are non-partisan, as required by law.
Grayson has focused on increasing outreach to veterans during his administration. In 2007, he launched the popular “Vote in Honor of a Veteran” program where more than 25,000 Kentuckians wore buttons leading up to and on Election Day to honor a veteran with their vote. Grayson has also worked to increase the number of soldiers overseas who participate in Kentucky elections and will soon announce new initiatives to increase their participation.
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